Canadian police used their vehicles to block a drive-in church service on Sunday to enforce the public health order in Manitoba due to the coronavirus, so churchgoers lined up outside the parking lot to listen to the pastor on a radio broadcast.
“God has given us the right to worship him together and he wants to see his people united,” Senior Pastor Henry Hildebrandt said, according to the Christian Post. “It seems like we’re living in a different Canada. It’s very heartbreaking to me.”
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CTV News Winnipeg reported that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police prevented about 100 parishioners from entering the parking lot at Church of God Restoration, so many lined their cars along a highway running past the church. Photos from the scene show snow on the ground and many dressed in heavy winter jackets.
Police told the station that a notice was sent out on Friday and they were hoping that the community would abide by the restrictions that ban all places of worship from opening their doors, which includes drive-in mass.
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The report said that most parishioners left once they were confronted by police, but one “adult male stated he wished to continue on and was given a $1,296 fine.” The church itself was also fined $5,000 last week for allegedly holding a service. The Post reported that the church said it held the service “in protest of these tyrannical edicts.”
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The church sent out a Facebook message on Saturday night that read, “We will be holding a drive-in worship service tomorrow morning at 9:30, God willing. Yesterday evening, the Manitoba government deemed drive-in services to be illegal. This worship service will be held in protest of these tyrannical edicts.”
Places of worship and local governments have been clashing across the globe over coronavirus mandates that they say unfairly target people of faith. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, last week that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, overreached on his authority when he restricted the number of those who can attend religious services in areas considered hot spots in the state.
The CTV News report said that the interaction with police was largely peaceful and pointed out that at the height of the standoff a tow truck was blocked from passing on Highway 12.